David Murray’s quest to save the old house on Paulina (“Our House,” February 1) struck me as being more self-serving than community service. After all, who wants a huge condo development being built next to their home? But more importantly, what Mr. Murray fails to realize is that he, along with his other yuppie neighbors, is very much responsible for destruction of Chicago’s old housing.
Why? Because they have created a demand for the mini high-rises that are invading our city. The affordable old frame houses are cheaper to demolish and less desirable than their brick counterparts. The typical pattern for the new construction is for a developer to buy an old frame house for a relatively low price, demolish it, then throw up a multistoried, exorbitantly priced (by neighborhood standards) condo development. Not only does this process destroy affordable housing for low-income families, it is detrimental to the neighborhood by replacing a family-oriented community with self-centered migrants who have no interest in mingling with their nonyuppie neighbors or supporting local businesses (unless, of course, it’s a Starbucks). Is it no wonder that longtime residents harbor resentment toward the individuals who are causing their taxes to skyrocket? How would you feel, Mr. Murray, if you saw your assessment go up 30 percent every three years? But then, you could always sell your condo (at a tidy profit) and move on to the next “hot spot.” Your poor neighbors, on the other hand, will be forced to relocate to less desirable locations because they don’t have the money to do otherwise. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen the same thing happen in my area for the last ten years. And invariably someone will say, “Boy, I’ll bet your place is worth a lot of money now!” Sure it is. But the only way I’ll see any of it is if I sell the place, which has been home to four generations. Meanwhile, my taxes escalate, familiar housing disappears, and more and more of my neighbors move away.
If you really want to help the community, Mr. Murray, then fight to change the zoning laws to preserve our old housing stock and modify the real estate reassessment process to put the burden of increased taxes on new buyers instead of longtime residents.